Charter school plan puts public school in danger of closing

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City School District's plans to develop a new charter school is drawing fire from some residents who say their neighborhood school would be closed as a result.

Wendell Phillips is a fully-accredited elementary school, one of the few in its school district. Those who live nearby said it has taken years of hard work to make it one of the best. School supporters said school administrators want a new charter school to take over that accreditation as part of the district's Neighborhood Academy initiative.

Parents say that Wendell Phillips has a loving, family atmosphere with high academic test results that would be lost if the school was closed and staff reassigned throughout the district.

"What I have seen that has been built here, that has taken years to build, a staff that has been cultivated, a staff that has been molded and made into a unit that has been able to provide the kind of education that this school provides, why would you tear that apart and hinder the education of the three-to-four hundred kids that are here to try to put them somewhere and start that process over again?"Greg Ealey, senior pastor with Paseo Baptist Church, said.

The school board is expected to receive a recommendation on closing Wendell Phillips on Feb. 24. There is a meeting planned for Wednesday to discuss the district's plan. Until then, neighbors and parents who volunteer at the school, hope to convince the school not to mess with success.

Local residents and church leaders said rather than being shut down, Wendell Phillips deserves recognition as a strong school that's helping improve the neighborhood at large.

Wendell Phillips officials released a statement Monday morning.

For more than two years, Kansas City Public Schools has been working on a Master Plan to develop stronger schools, stronger communities and successful students. We have engaged with students, parents/guardians, partners, volunteers and community leaders. Interim Superintendent Al Tunis and his team are continuing to refine and adjust the Master Plan recommendations, which will be presented to the KCPS Board of Directors on Feb. 10.

These recommendations are going to include proposed closures, consolidations and attendance boundary changes that would impact about 15 percent of the students currently enrolled in KCPS. Wendell Phillips Elementary School is in an area with a number of neighborhood schools with low enrollment. Draft Master Plan recommendations presented in November 2015 included the proposed closure of Crispus Attucks Elementary School.

Since November, we have received requests from the public to do further analysis of closure recommendations and to consider other schools in the area, including Wendell Phillips Elementary. We are carefully considering many factors - including academic achievement, enrollment, location and building conditions – as we decide which schools to recommend for closure. The School Board members will decide which, if any, Master Plan recommendations they want to approve.

Our goal is to free up resources to improve transportation, enhance academic resources and provide additional extra-curricular opportunities for all of our students.